Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Toddler's Trip to the ER

Blood was everywhere. I’ll get to that later.

Sunlight streamed through the open front door as the Boy, 4, and the Girl, 2, elbowed each other to see who could get out the door first. A clear, warm day after being trapped inside by the weather turns small children into very cross rugby players.

Then I made my first mistake of the day.

Parents make mistakes all the time, like rescuing their child instead of letting them learn the hard way, taking their eyes off the road because the girl jogging had something written across the seat of her shorts, and giving a teenage boy keys to anything – especially if you live in a neighborhood where girls jog with words across the seat of their shorts.

But I violated Parental Rule No. 152: Don’t let children with a history of pushing each other out of your sight – ever.

The door slammed and I … paused … to … grab … my … glass … of … tea. The screaming started immediately.

Outside, the Girl was face-first on the concrete at the foot of our front steps. The Boy was standing next to her holding the handlebar of his bicycle.

“What happened?” I said, scooping the Girl off the sidewalk, expecting a complete denial of any wrongdoing – no matter how lame – by the Boy. I was used to it.

“She fell,” he said and, unlike the times my wife and I find her crying in a pile of Little People*, I believed him.

I looked at her. Blood was everywhere.

Scalp injuries involving children are usually minor things that produce enough blood to make, 1) weak parents faint, and 2) the strong ones fondly remember their favorite “Friday the 13th” movie.

Standing at the foot of the steps, holding my sweet little girl who now looked like Carrie at the prom, I had a vision. It was of her at 16 years old, and she was pointing to a half-inch scar on her forehead.

“I could have been homecoming queen,” she screamed. “Except for this. Thanks for not taking me to the hospital, Dad. My life is ruined.”

Good Lord, like I wanted that hanging over me.

The cut was wide enough for stitches. My dad would have rubbed butter on the gash and laughed because we were wimpy enough to need butter for a blood-gushing wound. But Dad was from a generation that boasted concussions and fewer fingers.

We were in the ER five minutes later. Parental lesson learned: bad parenting is educational.

Three stitches, an adhesive bandage, a bunch of Daddy’s signatures on papers with words too small to read, and two chocolate ice cream cones later, we were home.

And all this happened while Mommy was at the store. The hard part of Daddy’s day wasn’t over yet.

*For people without children, these are a line of toys, not leprechauns, fairies, elves or Oompa Loompas. Well, maybe Oompa Loompas.

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

You can order Jason’s books, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at amazon.com.